On June 4-9, participants of BART “Public-Private Partnership in Barents Tourism” (the project being implemented within the framework of EU Kolarctic ENPI CBC Program) were on a scheduled benchmarking trip to Montenegro and Italy. Their mission was to learn and familiarize themselves with tourism development practices and strategies applied by the newly formed countries of the Balkan Region in the context of cross-border cooperation. Barent Region was, in turn, represented by experts from Lapland University of Tourism Development, Regional Council of Lapland, Luleo Technical University (Sweden), Barents Institute (Norway), Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sport of Arkhangelsk Region, M.V. Lomonosov Northern (Arctic) Federal University, Department for Economic Development of Murmansk Region, Murmansk State Humanities University and Murmansk State Technical University.
The busy programme of the visit to Montenegro included working meetings with the representatives of National Tourist Association in Podgorica, of University of Montenegro's Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management in Kotor, of Bar Municipality Tourist Association, of Tourist Information Centre in the ‘Lake of Scadar’ National Park, as well as of key tourist infrastructural facilities.
Tourism today is one of the core sectors of Montenegro’s economy. The 2011 statistics shows that it accounts for 17.2% in the country’s GDP, which ranks tourism the second most important industry after manufacturing. The national strategy for tourism development targets the increase of 17.2% share to 36% by 2020, with the consequential increase in tourism-related employment from 20% to 33%. This currently implemented strategy poses new challenges to Montenegro’s educational establishments that train specialists tourism-related activities. The number of students taking bachelor’s, master’s and specialist degree programmes and courses at the University of Montenegro's Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management totals about 1200. 30% of them are foreign students from the neighbouring countries. The training process is practically-oriented, with 50% of academic load relying on the on-site training at the region’s tourism-related businesses. Among the advantages of the education system here is the close cooperation with public authorities and more than 100 travel companies, as well as the opportunities of participating in academic mobility programmes and exchanges with Serbia, Albania, Bosnia, Italy and Russia.
The working meetings and discussions introduced the participants to Montenegro’s tourism and recreation potential, tourism development prospects, forms of marketing the country’s national brand ‘Montenegro – Wild Beauty’, tourism in specially protected natural areas (there are 5 national parks in Montenegro), public-private partnership case studies, current risks and challenges.
None the less productive was the working meeting in Italy – in the office of “TURGRATE.2: Joint Effort for Sustainable Tourism” (www.turgrate2.eu) international project that is being jointly implemented within the EU Programme by Italy, Montenegro, Greece and Albania. The project goals were presented by the project managers from Mesagne Municipality and target the expanded tourism-related cross-border cooperation and promotion of the innovative integrated system for managing the tourist product Adriatic countries are producing with the use of their unique natural, historical and cultural heritage. The meeting also discussed the intermediary outcomes of project activities and the character of cross-cultural interaction, the latter being of utmost interest to northern partners especially in the context of the Action Plan for Barents Tourism Development they are currently designing. The experience gained in creating and promoting regional tourism cluster will be applied by the BART project experts when positioning the Barents Euro-Arctic Region on the world travel market.
It was noted by participants of the study visits that benchmarking discussions appeared very useful also in the sense that they enable to acquire valuable experience in arranging MICE activities that are, in turn, high on the agenda of BART’s second phase providing for implementation of the Action Plan for BEAR Tourism Development and promotion of MICE-tourism jointly with tourism-related businesses and non-profit organizations.
To disseminate the best practices and models of public-private partnerships, the project participants are preparing a series of articles to be published in scientific editions of the Barents Region. The project outcomes will be presented at the international- and region-level academic symposiums and workshops to be held in Norway, Sweden and Arkhangelsk in 2012.
Lyubov Zarubina, Head of NArFU International Projects Unit, Project Administrative Coordinator
Tatyana Silinskaya, Specialist of Regional Tourism Development Section, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Project Thematic Coordinator
This project is co-financed by the European Union